No po­si­tion voiced by Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

With the Key­stone XL oil pipe­line ex­pos­ing deep rifts in the Demo­cratic Party, the White House re­mains tight-lipped on whether the pres­i­dent would sign or veto leg­is­la­tion ap­prov­ing the mas­sive Canada-to-Texas project.

Key­stone sup­port­ers in the Se­nate — in­clud­ing nearly a dozen Democrats — hoped to vote this week on leg­is­la­tion to ap­prove the project and end more than five years of de­lays from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. They first planned to at­tach the mea­sure to an en­ergy ef­fi­ciency bill ex­pected to come to the Se­nate floor as early as Mon­day.

But Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid has re­fused to al­low amend­ments to the ef­fi­ciency bill. He had promised a vote on a stand­alone Key­stone bill, though it’s un­clear when or even if that will ma­te­ri­al­ize.

As of Sun­day, the Key­stone bill ap­pears to be just short of the 60 votes needed to pro­ceed. All 45 Se­nate Repub­li­cans sup­port it, as do at least 11 Democrats, in­clud­ing red-state Democrats in tough re-elec­tion fights, such as Sen. Mary Lan­drieu of Louisiana.

Other Democrats, such as Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, are un­der heavy fire from their Repub­li­can op­po­nents on the is­sue. Mr. Udall, how­ever, re­cently told the Denver Post he plans to vote against the Key­stone ap­proval mea­sure.

The de­bate has di­vided the Demo­cratic Party be­tween its en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and union sup­port­ers and is mak­ing an im­pact in races across the coun­try, while also leav­ing Pres­i­dent Obama in a tough spot.

Ve­to­ing the mea­sure would show more in­de­ci­sion and a dis­re­gard for Key­stone’s sup­port among law­mak­ers and the Amer­i­can people. But if he signed the bill, Mr. Obama would will­ingly cede his author­ity to ap­prove or deny pipe­lines that cross an in­ter­na­tional boundary.

One fact is cer­tain, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts — the in­ter­nal pres­sure from Mr. Obama’s own party will only grow stronger as the cru­cial Novem­ber midterm elec­tions draw closer.

“I see it that they’re re­ally vul­ner­a­ble. You’ve got mod­er­ate Democrats that are pro-busi­ness, Democrats that un­der­stand Obama has been cater­ing to a very small el­e­ment [of the party] for a very long time. I think, pol­icy-wise, they want this vote and they want the project. A lot of people fear this could come back to haunt them in Novem­ber,” said Brigham McCown, for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment’s Pipe­line and Haz­ardous Ma­te­ri­als Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The project, which would trans­port more than 800,000 bar­rels of oil each day from the western prov­ince of Al­berta, south through the U.S. heart­land en route to re­finer­ies on the Gulf Coast, is still un­der re­view in­side the State Depart­ment.

The depart­ment put on hold its “na­tional in­ter­est de­ter­mi­na­tion” as a Ne­braska court weighs whether the pipe­line’s route through the state is valid. A pre­vi­ous study by the State Depart­ment found Key­stone would not in­crease harm­ful green­house­gas emis­sions but would cre­ate more than 40,000 Amer­i­can jobs.

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